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Tales from the Timberline
Part of a people's unwritten constitution is their connection to the land, a people's traditions, mythos, and ways of the land.
Welcome to The Timberline, our section of the Freemen News-Letter reserved for discussions on outdoorsmanship, hunting, hiking, fishing, self-defense, and so much more. I wanted to write the first official issue for this section, as its name has particular meaning to me.
Timberline used to be the name for a Boy Scout junior leadership course in Southern Utah, held every year at Camp Thunder Ridge. My grandpa, Lark Flanigan, was heavily involved in Scouting and, among many other things, was usually on staff every year for the training. I attended the training as a young Boy Scout and, the following year, worked on staff as the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader.
The memories and experiences I had at Timberline not only serve as the anchor point of my Boy Scout experience, but for many of the memories I have of my grandpa and of all the experiences I had in my formative years in the outdoors, with my grandpa, with my father, and on my own.
The Timberline course was different than any other Boy Scout camp. There were no merit badges and we didn’t attend as part of our regular Troop. Usually, only one or two members of any given Troop attended the training at the same time. There was also far less direct supervision of the Scouts.
On the first day, all the Scouts were separated into temporary Patrols and instructed that the entire camp would operate for the course of the week as a temporary Troop. Every Scout was given responsibilities, within the patrol and the troop. These responsibilities would rotate every day.
Each patrol had its own camp, self-regulated and up kept by the Scouts. The staff all stayed at their own separate camp. The staff provided basic structure and provided instruction, but the camp moved, or didn’t move, based upon the Scouts fulfilling their responsibilities. The Patrol Leader had to keep the patrol on schedule and lead the Scouts through activities. The Historian had to document everything the patrol did. The Cook had to obtain the daily requisition of food and…well…cook it, hopefully in a way that was edible. The staff didn’t even get any of their own food (each patrol was assigned several staff members each meal they had to escort from the staff area and feed).
For a skinny young kid who grew up watching Follow Me Boys! with my grandpa, The Cowboys with my Great Grandpa Elsworth “Sagebrush” Flanigan, and tremendously admiring the military service of my father Darwin Stapley and my other grandpa, Woodrow Stapley (who fought in the Battle of the Bulge), the experience of Timberline was the kind of adventure I didn’t ever want to end.
Experiencing the great outdoors in this way not only reinforced my love of camping, hiking, and exploring but, to paraphrase Henry Jones, it “taught me self-reliance!” It cultivated the qualities of leadership. It taught me to appreciate and rely on my own skills, my own intellect, and my own instincts. This helped to provide the foundation of my outdoorsmanship. When I go solo hunting, when I’m traveling the beaten path or forging my own trail, or when I simply want to relax and unwind with a fishing pole on a shoreline.
When I began putting together the idea of the Freemen News-Letter, I wanted to offer more than just a discussion of politics and history. Part of constitutionalism is the unwritten constitution of a society, or, in other words, what are the things that constitute a civilization, the culture, sub-cultures, mores, beliefs, customs, traditions, and pastimes, that build the fabric of a people.
And, for my part, a big part of such a story is a people’s connection to the land. A big part of who I am are the experiences I’ve shared with those who have guided me to manhood and the journey I’ve taken as I’ve come to know the vistas, valleys, deserts, and peaks of Utah along with those who’ve shared with me the traditions, the mythos, and the ways of the wild.
And so, it felt fitting to carve out a section of this effort for the discussion of the great outdoors and similar topics, and to name it after that foundational experience I had so long ago as a young Boy Scout. And, most importantly of all, as a tribute to the extraordinary figures in my life who opened this world up to me and blazed a trail I could follow.
Justin Stapley received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Utah Valley University, with emphases in Political Philosophy and Public Law, American History, and Constitutional Studies. He is the Founding and Executive Director of the Freemen Foundation as well as Editor in Chief of the Freemen News-Letter. @JustinWStapley